Trending: women artists to collect right now

Exploring everything from female sensuality to bodily biomorphism, these leading artists whose markets are on the rise are all offered in our Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale on 7 October at Christie’s in New York

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Beatriz Milhazes (b. 1960), Fleur de la Passion: Maracujá, 1995-1996. Acrylic on canvas. 47⅛ x 79¾ in (119.7 x 202.6 cm). Estimate: $350,000-550,000. Offered in Post-War & Contemporary Art Day Sale on 7 October 2020 at Christie’s in New York. © Beatriz Milhazes/Courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York/Shanghai .image-preview-container .image-preview:before { background: rgba(0,0,0,0); }

Lisa Yuskavage

Born in 1962, the painter Lisa Yuskavage is best known for her cartoonish, erotically charged images of women. Her brazen explorations of desire, lust and sexuality have earned her a reputation as the ultimate provocateur, says Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary art specialist Emily Kaplan. ‘She delves into the human psyche to illuminate the complexity behind female sensuality, while her subject’s deformities prey on women’s fears about losing control over their bodies.’ 

Lisa Yuskavage (b. 1962), Heart, 1996-1997. Oil on linen. 84 x 72 in (213.4 x 182.9 cm). Estimate: $350,000-550,000. Offered in Post-War & Contemporary Art Day Sale on 7 October 2020 at Christie’s in New York. Artwork: © Lisa Yuskavage

She’s also hailed as a masterful colourist, deeply invested in the painting process. ‘She builds up the canvas surface with care and deliberation,’ says Kaplan. ‘It’s a technique that she shares with her revered contemporary, John Currin.’ 

In recent years critics have feted Yuskavage, and commercial success has followed. In March 2020, Big Blonde with Teacup (1994), a comparable painting to Heart  (above) depicting a thin-armed, big-breasted woman in an ethereal, single palette space, sold for $450,000 — more than double its low estimate. Christie’s holds the top price for the artist at auction.


Ruth Asawa

It is only since her death in 2013 — at the age of 87 — that Ruth Asawa’s work has truly begun to receive the global recognition it deserves. In April 2020 the United States Postal Service announced the release of a series of stamps featuring 10 of the artist’s signature brass and wire sculptures in recognition of her legacy. A few months later, a monumental hanging sculpture (circa 1953-54) sold for a staggering $5,382,500 in the ONE sale at Christie’s New York, setting a new world record for the artist at auction.

Ruth Asawa (1926-2013), Untitled (S.753, Hanging Ten Interlocking Double Trumpets), circa early-1960s. Hanging sculpture — brass and copper wire. 23 x 24 x 14½ in (58.4 x 61 x 36.8 cm). Estimate: $500,000-700,000. Offered in Post-War & Contemporary Art Day Sale on 7 October 2020 at Christie’s in New York. Artwork: © The Estate of Ruth Asawa / DACS, London

Born in rural California in 1926, Asawa studied at the experimental Black Mountain College under Josef Albers. She began with ink drawing before turning to sculpture in 1947, when she learnt how to weave baskets out of wire. She exhibited throughout the 1950s with New York’s Peridot Gallery, selling works to prestigious institutions and collectors alike. By the end of the decade, however, she had all but slipped into obscurity. 

Her reputation is on the rise again now, though. In addition to private collectors, high-profile museums are showing keen interest in her work. In 2019 she was the subject of a major retrospective at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St Louis, the first major museum exhibition of the artist’s work in more than a decade. Next year, the Modern Art Oxford will present Ruth Asawa: Citizen of the Universe (30 Jan-9 May 2021), which will then tour to the Stavanger Kunstmuseum in Norway.

Beatriz Milhazes

Beatriz Milhazes matured with the ‘Eighties Generation’ of painters in Brazil, working in a figurative style only permissible after the fall of the country’s dictatorship in 1963. Her vibrant, colourful collages, prints, paintings and installations, often punctuated by a recurring set of arabesque motifs, draw on everything from opera and Brazilian popular music to colonial baroque architecture and carnival decoration.

‘I am seeking geometrical structures, but with freedom of form and imagery taken from different worlds,’ she once said.

Beatriz Milhazes (b. 1960), Fleur de la Passion: Maracujá, 1995-1996. Acrylic on canvas. 47⅛ x 79¾ in (119.7 x 202.6 cm). Estimate: $350,000-550,000. Offered in Post-War & Contemporary Art Day Sale on 7 October 2020 at Christie’s in New York. © Beatriz Milhazes/Courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York/Shanghai

She represented Brazil at the 50th Venice Biennale, held in 2003, and has since been included in solo and group shows around the world — including a major and well-received exhibition currently open at São Paolo’s MASP

Her work can be found in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Reina Sofia in Madrid, and the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, among others. 

The market for her work remains as strong as ever: A Lua (1997) sold at auction in June for $608,000, nearly triple the low estimate. She is represented by White Cube and Pace Gallery.

Lynda Benglis

In the 1960s Minimalist art was sleek and male-dominated; Lynda Benglis, however, pioneered a new form of abstraction focused on materials in action. She became renowned for works created from liquid wax, latex and foam, poured directly onto gallery floors, where they hardened to form brightly coloured quasi-volcanic masses. 

The undulating forms that resulted are a nod to the feminist roots of Benglis’s practice, which has proved enormously influential in discussions about women in art. As MoMA curator Laura Hoptman comments: ‘Anybody who is using that bodily biomorphism is Benglis. Anybody who is being very out with her sexuality is Benglis.’

Lynda Benglis (b. 1941), Argonauta, 1980. Gold leaf, gesso, hydrocal, oil base size and brass wire mesh. 35½ x 34 x 2 in (90.2 x 86.4 x 5.1 cm). Estimate: $70,000-100,000. Offered in Post-War & Contemporary Art Day Sale on 7 October 2020 at Christie’s in New York. Artwork: © Lynda Benglis/VAGA at ARS, NY and DACS, London 2020

Metal sculptures such as Argonauta (above) echo these forms, and have attracted considerable interest at auction. In March 2020, a comparable gold leaf sculpture cruised past its high estimate of $60,000 before selling for $212,500. 

Elizabeth Murray

According to Kaplan, Elizabeth Murray’s bold abstract works featuring biomorphic forms, figures and everyday objects such as cups and pillows are enjoying an uptick in market interest. In November 2019, Little Fingers (2001) set a new world record for the artist at auction when it sold for $437,500, against a high estimate of $80,000.

Elizabeth Murray (1940-2007), Moonbeam, 1995-1996. Oil and wax on shaped canvas and panel construction. 109 x 63 x 6 in (276.9 x 160 x 15.2 cm). Estimate: $90,000-120,000. Offered in Post-War & Contemporary Art Day Sale on 7 October 2020 at Christie’s in New York. Artwork: © The Murray-Holman Family Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS 2020

Over the past four decades, Murray’s work has been the subject of more than 80 solo shows worldwide, including — most recently — Elizabeth Murray: Flying Blue at the Camden Art Centre  in London in 2019 and Spotlight on Elizabeth Murray  at Stanford University in 2018. In November 2020, Murray’s work will be included in a group exhibition celebrating contemporary women artists at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Kara Walker

The auction record for the American artist Kara Walker was set in June 2019, when Four Idioms on Negro Art #4 Primitivism  realised £395,250 at Christie’s in London. Just a few months later Walker made headlines again with Fons Americanus, a 13-metre high four-tiered working fountain inspired by the Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace, which is currently installed in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern.

Kara Walker (b. 1969), Untitled, 2001. Cut paper collage on paper, in two parts. Each: 70 x 48 in (177.8 x 121.9 cm). Estimate: $120,000-180,000. Offered in Post-War & Contemporary Art Day Sale on 7 October 2020 at Christie’s in New York. Artwork: © Kara Walker, courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York

Fons Americanus  has garnered critical praise and brought a wider audience to her practice, buoying the already strong market for her work.

Frances Morris, Tate Modern’s director, told Christie’s in 2019 that Walker ‘fearlessly tackles some of the most complex issues we face today’. Recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Walker could prove to be a savvy investment. 

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